FDR knocks out Reagan as best 20th century president

Presiding over two eras reminiscent of the current economic meltdown, the father of the 1930s New Deal triumphs over the patriarch of the 1980s “government is the problem,” according to a new Rasmussen poll.

By a margin of 45-40 with 15 percent undecided, poll respondents selected Franklin Delano Roosevelt as better than Ronald Reagan. Predictably, the two commanders-in-chief won high marks from those on their ideological spectrum, with 76 percent of liberals favoring Roosevelt and 68 percent of conservatives preferring Reagan.

But it’s with moderate, women and African-American voters where the poll gets interesting. Centrists back FDR over Reagan 56 percent to 26 percent, while black voters overwhelmingly support him by a 2-to-1 margin. Women favored Roosevelt by 15 percentage points.

As fewer voters align with a specific political school of thought and women and minorities become more politically engaged, future candidates could do well to emulate the big thinking of the New Deal, focusing on a collapsing economy and multiple foreign wars rather than political pandering and ideology.

It probably also doesn’t hurt that the poll was conducted as Americans watched foreclosures loom, unemployment soar and Wall Street melt down. Maybe in the midst of an economic crisis, free markets without regulatory watch-dogging doesn’t seem like such a great idea after all.

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